The blaze that burned the roof off the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris horrified the world. But in less than 24 hours, donors big and small had pledged more than $700 million to rebuild the iconic structure, which had withstood wars, a revolution and other disasters since construction was completed nearly eight centuries ago.
By midweek, the total donations and pledges were bumping up close to the $1 billion mark -- an astounding gesture of love for a structure that had come to symbolize the heart and soul of a country. It almost got to the point where donation gridlock developed as the nation’s billionaires scrambled to get on the scoreboard. When the second-richest man in the country pledged 100 million, one of his rivals was intent on not being outdone. He doubled down with a 200 million-euro pledge.
The national tragedy turned into a platform for social activists to rail about unbridled displays of largess in a country where millions are struggling economically. Not an altogether invalid point, but this wasn’t the time or place for it. What matters now is collecting the funds to restore the cathedral as quickly and authentically as possible. If it takes a billionaire bidding war to make it happen, so be it.